These days, you’ll more often than not see tasks being done on a cellphone or laptop. Productivity, communication, and games are common activities on these portable machines. However there is still a multitude of tasks where the power of a desktop PC is indispensable, and the component nature of PCs is a blessing. Like how the advent of electronic mail did not remove the need for paper, and instead pushed it towards importance, the popularity of portable devices underlines the importance of a powerful desktop.
Motherboards are representative of a desktop’s power and flexibility, being the foundation of any build, and the X99A Xpower Gaming Titanium, while a mouthful, has a feature list to match. Let’s take a look.
Starting with storage, the user is given a lot options. There are a total of 10 SATA connectors, 6 of which are perpendicular to the board to keep things tidy. Out of the 10, there are 2 eSATA connectors (Express SATA) that can connect 2 devices each, and an eleventh half socket can handle an additional eSATA device. Near these ports is a U.2 connector, and between the PCI Express slots is an M.2 slot. With this setup, the user can create a slimline build with just a single M.2 SSD, or go the other way and create multi-terabyte RAID arrays that fill the PC enclosure using both the SATA and the U.2 connectors for 2.5” SSDs.
General connectivity is also handled well with 6 gen 1 USB 3.1 sockets, a single gen 2 USB 3.1 Type C port (reversible), and another, standard sized gen 2 USB 3.1, plus 3 USB 2.0 ports for keyboard, mouse and other peripherals. Also found at the back panel is a legacy PS/2 port for low latency keyboard inputs, an Intel i218-V Gigabit LAN, the WiFi and Bluetooth antenna connectors, also by Intel, a Clear CMOS button, and 8 channel HD audio. There are also additional USB 3.1 headers to the lower right-edge of the board, plus another gen 2 USB 3.1 Type C connector. Finally, 2 additional USB 2 headers are found at the bottom edge.
Add-on cards and RAM is fully covered with 8 memory sockets arrayed on both sides of the CPU, 5 PCI Express x16 slots, plus an x2 slot.
Overclocking is historically an MSI strength and a focus for its products. In addition to the regular ATX 24-pin power connector and a generous sprinkling of fan headers, notable additions to this board include a 4-pin flat molex power connector for additional power for the PCI-E slots, and an additional 4-pin power connector.
To control this power, MSI includes features like the “Discharge” button – used instead of the practice of removing the button cell battery, a “Game Boost” button with plus and minus buttons for adjusting *either* the base clock or ratio of the CPU. Facilitating further fine tuning is an OC Retry/OC Force Enter BIOS button, a PCI-E “CeaseFire” switch to disable any PCI slot you’d like, V-check connectors for testing with a multimeter, and even an RGB LED pin header to remove the requirement for additional cable for adding bling to your build.
Definitely a mouthful. Yet all of the above features can be found in its competitors in some combination or other, perhaps not in this quantity or variety, but there nonetheless. What sets MSI apart is the technology and research that backs up all of these features. Case in point – for power delivery it’s all well and good that there is a single button that controls your overclock, but this wouldn’t work properly without the improved capacitors and “Titanium” chocks afforded by MSI’s Military Class V technology. The power delivery system is a full 12 phases, and is delivered smoothly using high quality electrical components. The flexibility displayed by its connectors all have a foundation of careful improvement to them – the memory slots and PCI-E slots are reinforced by “Steel Armor” to prevent sagging and other damage. The spacing for the PCI-E connectors shows how much thought was given to keep multi-GPU setups cool– up to 4 GPUS in SLI or Crossfire configuration is supported.
Another aspect to this board’s technological prowess is the extensive list of software it offers to its users. There is software that enhances the hardware’s performance, like the Nahimic Audio Enhancer and the USB Speed Up for faster transfers over USB, then there are utility software that enables the user to control all aspects of the board’s performance – like the Gaming App, Control Center, and the Gaming LAN Manager. Then there are software that gives completely separate capabilities to the user – like the Xsplit Game Caster for the avid streamer, and the RAMDISK utility for increased I/O performance.
For both flexibility and power, the X99A Xpower Gaming Titanium does not leave the user wanting. There are a lot of other, notable aspects to this product that gives value for the potential buyer – packaging is superb, as is the silvery matte look and clean appearance of this board. Excellent documentation helped this writer get a grip on the overwhelming number of features. The extras included in the box is comprehensive, to say the least. A quick run down of the inclusions – 10 SATA connectors, SATA cable labels, a backplate with cleverly designed padding, 4 SLI bridges(!), 2 antennas. And a bunch of other swag too numerous to list which can be seen in the pictures.
As mentioned earlier, PC computing is becoming a specialized activity. Sure, it can do all the usual things expected of it before portable devices became popular – check email, do productivity tasks, surf the web, but there are a lot of tasks that can only be performed on the PC – full virtual reality for one. Heavy gaming. Specialized productivity – 3D rendering and design work comes to mind. We can even include bitcoin mining in the mix – point being, the heavy lifting is being done by the PC, and the more specialized requirements become, the more important the backbone of the PC will be, perhaps in the same way that you would only trust a paper document for important matters, like deeds of sale and certain other agreements. This MSI board was designed with that fact very well in mind.
That leaves us with price. With all of the features included and enhancements made to what basically is a dock for your components and your interface, $300 SRP is not unreasonable. There are certainly more affordable options in the market, yet thse will be instant compromises made as replacement to an excellent, high-end, overclockable board with the stability and pedigree that ensures the user with worry-free enthusiast usage for many years.